It’s hot right now in Texas, which is obviously nothing new, but it’s hard to remember the last time it was this hot at SXSW. That’s fine with me, but it causes some issues related to time management and showering. Basically, there’s always something happening during SXSW, and if you have a personality like mine where you constantly feel like you’re missing out on something good (I’m still pretty jealous that I didn’t see that Cash Cash show on Wednesday), well, you start giving up some basic daily activities, like eating meals sitting down and taking showers. I feel kind of filthy, but it’s 12:15 p.m. and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is going on in half an hour at the Brooklyn Vegan/Paste party at the Radio Room, so fuck it, I’m flying smelly today.
I arrive just in time to hear the announcement that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart has had a scheduling conflict, and suddenly I’m left standing there in my filth, jealous of the guys back in the room taking nice, hot showers. I can’t win. At least the party has some tasty quesadillas, which means I don’t have to leave the venue and risk not getting back in. Nobody’s paying much attention to the main-stage pinch hitters, who are apparently called The Wheel, but things finally start to pick up when Bishop Allen takes the stage and starts playing its smart, Elephant 6-esque indie rock. The keyboardist looks like she could be a member of Au Revoir Simone, which technically isn’t possible, since two minutes after Bishop Allen’s set, I’m at the inside stage watching ARS play its pretty, fairly simple electro-pop. It’s not the most exciting music in the world—though, to be fair, there are a couple of songs that take the dreaminess factor up a notch—but it sounds nice in this air-conditioned room, and who doesn’t like looking at these Stepford-esque beauties from Brooklyn who act like they’re teenagers at a sleepover? Next up is a lot of volume and saliva from These Arms Are Snakes—or at least I assume that’s who’s up, since I’ve never actually seen TAAS before—who are competing with Daniel Johnston rocking out with Hymns on the outside stage. I’m dabbling at this point, but really just wasting time until indie-rock lifers The Wrens arrive. Who, to cut to the good part, are on fire today. These old goats have so much energy it’s infectious, and the music couldn’t sound better. There’s a new album on the way (I can’t believe The Meadowlands came out way back in 2003), so these Jersey boys are apparently back (again).
Assuming that the Wrens show is going to leave everything else I see today in its wake, I’m having a hard time mustering up a proper amount of excitement for my Bay Area brethren Themselves, who are hippity-hopping on the outside stage at the Bay Area Takeover show at Beauty Bar. I usually avoid seeing local bands at SXSW, but I’ve never seen Themselves or Wallpaper, who, to once again cut to the good part, may end up being my favorite part of the week. Led by Eric Frederic of indie-prog outfit Facing New York, Wallpaper is a booty-shaking good time, and even if it’s all done in the name of irony, this sexed-up R&B is well-crafted and genuinely hilarious. Frederic is backed on drums by a huge panda, who at one point gets caught eating bamboo between songs. I guess you have to be here, but I haven’t laughed this hard at a show in a long time. Thanks for the cover of BBD’s “Poison,” and Eric, good luck with Denise. (The supposed Wal-Mart employee who recently got up into Frederic’s business while serving him a corn dog, and who won’t stop texting him. Okay, yeah, I really think you had to be there.)
After doling out a bunch of smelly hugs to friends and acquaintances, I head back to the hotel for a shower, then at 8:15 p.m. I make a beeline to Opal Divine’s Freehouse, where I’m going to wait patiently for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart to take the stage at 10:25 p.m. Apparently this show is being brought to us by Mountain Dew’s record label, which you’d think would be all speed-metal bands or something, but instead we get some Athens psych-rock from Kuroma and punk from The Soft Pack, an L.A. band that hasn’t got any more exciting since changing its name from The Muslims. Finally it’s time for some throwback indie-rock/shoegaze from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which is a name that I’ve screwed up at least 20 times since getting to Austin. It’s peppy and satisfying, if maybe a little boring, but as with Au Revoir Simone, you sort of feel like that’s part of the appeal. As my best friend has said about Radiohead, the songs without hooks last longer.
The other day I read something about how Playboy’s annual party is always the best show at SXSW, which over the past few years is something that could certainly be contested, but the rumor about all-original-members-playing-the-good-stuff Jane’s Addiction showing up has me genuinely excited. Located inside of an old Safeway, the party is thumping well past midnight with Bassnectar on the decks and Bunnies on the stage, and at around 1:30 a.m. Jane’s takes the stage. It’s really loud and Eric Avery looks really old, but this Nothing’s Shocking stuff is bananas—from “Mountain Song” to “Ocean Size” to “Had A Dad,” this sounds just as good as it did back when I first saw them at UCSB’s football stadium in 1989. There’s none of the circus-y garbage that ruined my experience of seeing the band at Coachella in 2001, and while Perry Farrell has stopped being the dreadlocked freak who scared me into liking the band in the first place, I couldn’t have asked for a better show. Better than Wallpaper? Maybe. Good enough to make me want to see it again in an amphitheater with Nine Inch Nails? Probably not…